Tuesday, June 16, 2009

DVD Picks of the Week: June 16th, 2009

If you've never seen The Seventh Seal before, today might be the perfect day to get your first glimpse at the masterpiece. The Seventh Seal is my favorite film of all time. I've given 15 minute presentations on it and written 10 page final papers on it for good reason. Today is the day that the film's DVD reissue hits shelves and it's given its first region one Blu-ray treatment, all courtesy of the Criterion Collection. But don't worry, that isn't all that's getting released today, June 16th.

The Seventh Seal [Criterion DVD][Criterion Blu-ray]

It was obvious that I was going to start my entry this week with The Seventh Seal. This is the Ingmar Bergman film that built up all the passion I have for Bergman and all cinema like it. The beautiful yet tragic and haunting film from the Swedish director is his breakthrough masterpiece. The film tells the journey home of knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow in one of his greatest performances), as he treks through a medieval land ravaged by plague. Block plays a game of chess with Death, a symbol of the way man faces death. All the while Block roams the lands, searching for answers to existential questions, such as if God really exists. The mostly bleak and sometimes comedic film is soaked with meaning in every line of dialogue, every character and every shot of the camera. With so much to take in, the film is worthy of multiple viewings, a typical quality of a masterpiece. For those that already own the film on DVD, an upgrade to the reissued version or the brand spanking new Blu-ray is most definitely worth it. The 2-disc collections contain a good amount of extras, highlighted by Bergman Island, an 83-minute documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyreröd, featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with the director. This alone gets my mouth wet. I've decided that I will wait to buy this film again when I get a PS3 and HDTV, so I can take advantage of the gorgeous looking new transfer. Those of you that have never seen this film, you are lucky to have such a pristine and high quality release available to introduce you to the mind of Ingmar Bergman.

Ghostbusters [Blu-ray]

To coincide with the release of the new Ghostbusters videogame, Sony has released the original film on Blu-ray. This turned out to be one of the most successful films of its kind after it was released in 1984 and its release on the Blu-ray format seems long overdue. I myself am not exactly itching to get at this great film, but I know others that are, so I take that into high account. Perfect timing for Sony.

Friday the 13th [Extended DVD][Extended Blu-ray]

Another notable film released today is the reimagining of the first few films of the Friday the 13th series. This was a title I didn't really care too much about after initially seeing it. I don't know how much the "extended" cut can improve on things, but I'm doubtful. This wasn't a bad film, just nothing that stands out in my mind. I'm not going to sit here and say it was stupid or dumb, it is a slasher film after all. The problem I have with it now is the same as what I touched on in my review I wrote of the film back in February. This film offers nothing new, nothing special, nothing memorable. I didn't even have a bad time watching it. From a standpoint of looking at Hollywood and the horror genre, this film is just another example of the problems we're experiencing. Remakes, reboots, ripoffs. It's the name of the game. If only more films like Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell could come about. I guess that's unlikely. Still, most people should get a kick out of this film. It's a solid way to spend an hour and a half if slasher flicks are your thing.

Friday the 13th
[Part 2 Blu-ray][Part 3 Blu-ray 3D]
[Final Chapter DVD][Part V DVD][Part VI DVD]

On the same day as the 2009 version of Friday the 13th is released, so are five of the historic series titles. Part two and three (with 3D) get the Blu-ray treatment the original classic got awhile back, and Part five, six and the final chapter (aka part four; not actually the final chapter) get deluxe edition DVD reissues like parts one, two and three got awhile back. I only own the first release of the first film, but would love to own them all some day. I just hope that if and when they release deluxe editions of the rest of the titles, they put them into a new and somewhat affordable box set for us collectors to buy. Until then, all this new Jason Voorhees content should keep all slasher fans busy.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [Blu-ray]

One of the funniest films ever made is also one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest films. Films such as A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining are the first few films always mentioned when Kubrick's name arises. I'm of the belief, like a lot of other people, that this film should join it. I was sort of young when I first saw this film, somewhere around 17. Okay, that was four years ago, deal with it. I've done a lot of growing up since then. I loved the film, laughed a lot, but didn't understand some of the more political/war satire. Now when I watch the film over and over again, I do. Amazing what a little bit of knowledge will do. Peter Sellers gives one of his greatest performances and with other actors like George C. Scott and film noir favorite Sterling Hayden, you can't go wrong.

The Strange One [DVD]

Now it's time for my at least once a week DVD pick of a film I have yet to see, but have had my eyes opened to thanks to the glorious function of the DVD. This week is The Strange One, a film directed by Jack Garfein and starring Ben Gazzara. The release of this film caught my attention after reading Jamie S. Rich's fabulous review of the DVD on DVDTalk.com. The film seems compelling, as it tells about a sadomasochistic bully (Gazzara) in a Southern military academy who manipulates those around him. The film also features a cast drawn from The Actor's Studio in New York, which is a neat note itself. I immediately bumped this into my Netflix queue, and I think you should do the same.

[Shorts 1][Shorts 2][Plan 9 From Outer Space]
[Night of the Living Dead][Swing Parade]
[House on Haunted Hill][Missile to the Moon][Reefer Madness]
[Little Shop of Horrors][Carnival of Souls]

That's a lot of Rifftrax. The guys who made making fun of terrible films popular with Mystery Science Theater 3000 has reformed in many different ways over the years. Film Crew was a more short lived one of those formations, where the guys strayed from commentary on just terrible horror/sci-fi/fantasy films to terrible dramas, such as Hollywood After Dark. Rifftrax is Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. It began as an online only, pay for a download file sold sepperately from the films themselves adventure, and has apparently morphed into actual DVD releases of a few of the public domain titles they've riffed on. The team has done everything from the new Transformers film to classics like Casablanca, a definite change of pace for fans of the classics. I haven't seen any of these newly released to DVD titles so I can't tell you if they are funny or not. What I can tell you is Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls are two of the greatest horror films ever made, so I wouldn't view them for the first time with the riffing turned on. But seriously, who hasn't seen the original Night of the Living Dead? Of note, Deepdiscount.com offers all 10 titles for $47.

What else comes out this week: Burn Notice: Season Two/[Blu-ray], Family Guy, Vol. 7, The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6, Everwood: Second Season, Transformers: First Season (25th Aniv.), John Adams [Blu-ray], Spaceballs [Blu-ray], Generation Kill [Blu-ray], Rolling Stones: The Biggest Bang [Blu-ray], Kickboxer [Blu-ray], Miracle [Blu-ray], The Greatest Game Ever Played [Blu-ray], The Diary of Anne Frank [Blu-ray], Fracture [Blu-ray].

What to stay away from: This week's loser is Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail. Just stop Tyler, please.

I'm going to leave you with one afterthought today. Just looking at today's list makes me realize that Blu-ray is really catching on. With HDTV's becoming more and more affordable, PS3's being an ultimate option as a Blu-ray player and the prices of the actual discs coming down ever so slowly thanks to sales that occur often, it seems like this format might stick around for awhile. Solid but not exactly smash hit films such as Fracture are seeing their way to the format. I don't think DVD will die anytime soon, though, so don't be afraid to keep purchasing them. They still look great upscaled. Anyways, see ya.

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